Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?
Before I start, I will warn you that the content of this blog may not be suitable for all ages. This blog may contain items of a graphic nature and adult topics. Parents should review this blog before allowing their children to read it.
People ask vets all sorts of questions. We pretty much answer questions all day, every day. Most questions are fairly straightforward, some are more difficult to answer. One question we frequently get is “Why does my dog eat poop.” Sometimes the owner is talking about the dog’s own poop. Other times, it is horse poop, cat poop, chicken poop, pretty much any kind of poop. Some owners are understanding, and you can just tell them straight out that dogs are gross, and they eat gross things, but imagine telling Fufoo’s owner, who makes sure that she has a different outfit for every day, a new outfit for each holiday, eats at the table, has her own plate (you get the picture) that Fufoo eats poop because she is a dog and that’s what dogs do. Obviously, this couldn’t possibly be the reason, Fufoo would never do anything gross. Okay, sure… Akin to eating poop, dirty diapers seem to be something that dogs have a difficult time resisting. We used a Diaper Genie when our kids were babies for that very reason. However,the dogs would occasionally get into the trash cans outside and get into the bags from the Diaper Genie. Boy, was that fun to clean up.
But dog’s adventurous palates are not confined to poop, oh no. They pretty much enjoy eating or chewing up anything that smells like us, and the stinkier the better. We had one patient who had a major sock fettish. We did surgery on Jimmy at least ten times over the years for eating pretty much whatever he could get hold of: grass, towels, underwear, you name it, but socks were his favorite. Once Dr. Greg removed 12 socks from his stomach. I had a dog when I was growing up who never needed surgery for her sock fettish, but we would find partially digested socks out in the yard or sometimes hanging from her butt. Nice. Underwear is also a very common article of clothing for dogs to eat. We have found some pretty fancy panties in the poop from some of our boarding dogs. As a teenager, I spent the summer with a family that had a dog with a thing for bras. One day, I went to get dressed and the only thing left of my bra was two underwires.
Dogs like to other personal items as well. Genevieve found a “Dog Shaming” calendar for Greg for Christmas. This month, one of the days was a dog who ate and subsequently puked up, 48 new, tightly sealed condoms. (He wasn’t sorry at all). My only question is: Why would someone have 48 condoms sitting around? 48! Condoms are actually a fairly common thing for dogs to eat, but, in my experience, they are typically already used when the dog gets hold of them. Tampons are another lovely thing that we don’t like to think about our dogs eating. Dr. Greg once did surgery on a dog that had been vomiting for THREE MONTHS and found a tampon. It smelled REALLY bad! On a less disgusting note, dogs also like to eat things we touch a lot: remote controls seem to be irresistible, one of our employees’ dogs ate a phone cord. Dogs also like to eat jewelry. I have had a couple owners bring their dogs in because they thought they had eaten engagement rings. Fortunately, jewelry shows up nicely on xrays and usually passes without a problem, but I wouldn’t want to be the one sifting through all that poop. When Genevieve was little, we discovered that her dog Stinky had eaten her Mickey Mouse bracelet when we were xraying Stinky’s hips. You could actually see the Mickey Mouse ears on the xray. Genevieve found the bracelet out in the yard years later. (It went in the trash).
At our vet school, there is an xray of a dog who swallowed a butcher knife. It is just sitting in his esophagus, no harm done. One of our employees’ dogs ate shotgun shells. A client was in the other day and said her dog had eaten seashells she had been collecting. A few weeks ago, Dr. Greg did surgery on a vomiting dog and got three pounds of grass out of the stomach. We also had a client’s dog eat 7 pounds of pea gravel. We had to knock that dog out, fill the stomach with water and flush out as much gravel as we could. In the end, we got most of it, but he probably still has a few rocks floating around in there.
Who knows why dogs eat poop or any of the various things they eat. They are dogs, and that is what they do. The worst part is that dogs rarely learn not to eat these things even after a surgery or having to (often painfully) pass something they shouldn’t have eaten. The best we can hope for is that their owners learn and can keep the worst things away from them. Speaking as an owner, I do the best I can, and deal with the little things that fall through the cracks. At least it gives us something interesting to talk about.